“A hotelier must be a diplomat, a democrat, an autocrat, an acrobat, and a doormat.”
Sometimes you meet a General Manager who is not quite like all the others, and this certainly applies to Pitak Norathepkitti, in a good way of course. While his current role sees him taking responsibility for the Anantara Angkor Resort in Cambodia, Pitak is also an educator, often taking the time to lecture at some of Thailand’s top universities, to the benefit of young Thai hospitality students.
Pitak’s own journey began with a Fine and Applied Arts degree and a role as a sales executive, before moving on to Australia with a master’s degree in Tourism Marketing from Monash University. He has since held roles in luxury properties in Bangkok, Laos, and Cambodia, from where he recently talked to Hotelintel.co
What’s the current state of tourism in Cambodia at the moment? Is there anything that your hotel does in order to help the community?
We have been through the third outbreak from 20th February 2021, with lockdown, curfew, and an alcohol ban. Things are looking better with The Cambodia Association of Travel Agents expecting an increase in travel once the Phnom Penh lockdown is lifted. We’re supposed to be in the recovery stage but that might not be until the end of this year. Our winter season sets the scene to reactivate the tourism sector.
For the local community, the team here leads the way when it comes to sustainable innovation. We have worked closely with hotel/hospitality schools here in Siem Reap to ensure sufficient internship opportunities and some of our interns can secure a full-time job during this difficult situation. We also provide a major boost to local agriculture by sourcing their food locally. The local Khmer menu has been added since August last year. Sourcing food locally benefits guests as well. When food is grown in the area, it arrives at our chef fresher. Guests benefit from enjoying incredible meals, the flavor of which cannot be paralleled by frozen food delivery systems.
What are you most passionate about when it comes to the hotel business?
A career in the hospitality industry is all about passion in many dimensions. I do enjoy numbers and the commercial aspects so much that my enthusiasm will be transferred to everyone that you come into contact with. It is good fun to have operations people involved more in P&L explanations and to have finance people being part of commercial strategy roll-outs. They learn new things and we also hear their new perspectives as well.
What is the most challenging aspect in hotel operation and how do you overcome it?
Human beings, for they are the only factors that create problems and solutions simultaneously. We act towards guests differently even though we have SOPs in place, while guests also want different services, even when they are accommodated in the very same room type, the same restaurant table, or the same spa room. Our job is to make sure everyone from the hotel side looks from the guest’s point of view in order to understand “why” they want that.
What is the biggest challenge of operating a luxury hotel in cultural and historical destinations like Laos and Cambodia?
Luxury is interpreted differently in this part of the world. It is not hardware-heavy like the big city hotels in Hong Kong, Tokyo, or Bangkok. It is more about tailor-made experiences. The younger generations seek the material aspect of luxury travel, while more mature markets are craving a new, evolved kind of luxury. This is why offering luxury customers a relevant personal and exclusive experience will become even more crucial than it is today. The key product remains the same as temples, palaces, and archaeological discoveries, but the stories that are told have to be crafted, depending on the interests of the audience.
Apart from passion, what other skill sets does a hotelier need to become an effective GM?
Someone once said “a hotelier must be a diplomat, a democrat, an autocrat, an acrobat, and a doormat.” This is not a job, it’s a mentality. Combined with your passion, you should be a people person, a multi-tasking employee, and approachable manager.
Visit Pitak Norathepkitti at Anantara Angkor Resort